Bullying at School – The Warning Signs to Watch For

October 12, 2018

Bullying can have a devastating effect on its victims. It is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. It is damaging emotionally to the victim and also to the bully. It leaves emotional scars on both. And a witness can be affected also.

Victims suffer emotional damage which may last for many years. The range of reactions can include low self-esteem, difficulty controlling anger, depression, anxiety, loss of trust in others, lack of assertiveness, isolation, and even aggression.

Signs That a Child is Being Bullied

Parents must be sensitive to signs that their child is experiencing bullying. Some signs are:

  • Reluctance to go to school
  • Complains that he has few or no friends
  • Depression that continues
  • Major changes in appetite for sleeping habits
  • Drop in school performance

There may be no physical wounds visible. Verbal bullying may be going on, and words can be just as damaging as physical injuries. The goal of the bully is to look superior and strong, so he or she will demean and degrade the victim. Girls employ verbal bullying more than boys.


  • Between one in four and one in three children say they have been bullied in school. In grades 6 to 12, 28 percent say it has happened to them. For grades 9 to 12, the percentage is 20.
  • About 30 percent admit they have bullied others.
  • Bullying has been observed by 70.6 percent of students in their schools, and 62 percent have witnessed it two or more times in the last month. Another 41 percent say they have seen it at least once a week.
  • “Frequent” is considered two or more bullying episodes a month, and 40.6 percent of victims report this.

Kids at Risk for Being Bullied

Some children are more likely to be bullied than others:

  • Victims may be seen as different. They may be new at school, overweight, underweight, wear different clothing or wear glasses, or may not be dressed to look “cool.”
  • Victims may be perceived as unable to defend themselves or weak.
  • They may have low self-esteem or be anxious or depressed.
  • They may have few friends and be viewed as less popular.
  • They may be seen as annoying, provoking, or antagonizing others for attention and may not get along well with others.
  • There may be family problems, learning or physical disabilities, emotional distress.
  • Especially vulnerable are the disabled, LGBTQ, racial and religious minorities.

The Bully

Children who bully fall into two groups:

  • Those who are concerned about their popularity and enjoy feeling dominant and like to control others. They are socially powerful and connect well with peers.
  • The other group is less likely to be socially connected. They may have low self-esteem, be anxious or depressed, have little or no empathy, and are aggressive or anxious. They are less involved in school and may have issues at home. There is little parental involvement. They are easily influenced by other students, have other bullies as friends, see violence as acceptable, and may dislike others.

Types of Bullying and Locations

Bullying comes in many forms. Among middle school kids, the methods of bullying come in these varieties:

  • Name-calling – 44.2%
  • Teasing – 43.3%
  • Spreading rumors or lies – 36.3%
  • Pushing or Shoving – 32.4%
  • Hitting, slapping, Kicking – 29.2%
  • Social exclusion – 28.5%
  • Threatening – 27.4%
  • Stealing belongings – 27.3%
  • Sexual comments or gestures – 23.7%

The bullying behaviors mostly occur in schools, outside on the school grounds, on the school bus, the classroom, the hallways or lockers, the cafeteria, the gym or during phys ed, the bathroom, or on the playground or during recess.

“Pack bullying,” being bullied by a group, occurs more frequently in high school. It can be emotional or physical, and it lasts longer. It can be carried out online, where attacks can be anonymous. Cyberbullying can also be in the form of insulting comments, gossiping with private details of the victim, exclusion from an online group or page, harassment, and impersonation of the victim, falsely creating posts that make him or her look bad.


Being bullied is commonly blamed for a child’s suicide. However, it is far more complicated than that. The vast majority of suicide victims do not consider or attempt suicide. Children who do consider it are usually involved with complex issues. There may be mental health issues, family problems, school stresses, poor relationships with peers and romantic circumstances.

Children who witness bullying are also affected by it. They may feel helpless and lose a sense of connectedness. They also need support.

Bullying can be traumatic for many victims. It can produce severe mental distress which can last a long time. Young people should be able to find counseling and support. Parents should consider Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center in Malibu, California for professional help.


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